A grounded theory exploration into the experiences of recovering alcoholic counsellors working with alcoholic clients

Prof Doc Thesis

Henderson, Ruth A. 2012. A grounded theory exploration into the experiences of recovering alcoholic counsellors working with alcoholic clients. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.1600
AuthorsHenderson, Ruth A.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Many counsellors have shared trauma experience with their clients. However, there seemed to be mixed views on how this shared experience might impact on the client and therapist. Some researchers propose that shared experience offers symbiotic healing for the client and therapist, whilst other authors propose the shared wounds are detrimental to therapy process. Despite these conflicts little seems to be known about how the counsellor experiences and views the shared relationship with the client (Doukas & Cullen, 2011; Rowan & Jacobs, 2003; Wosket, 1999). This qualitative grounded theory study investigated the views and experiences of 10 Recovering Alcoholic Counsellors (RAC) who work with alcoholic clients.
The findings of the current study suggested that therapy with the alcoholic client related to the therapist managing their own recovery from alcoholism, which involved processes of building a self-identity, identifying with the client and fearing relapse. The alcoholic identity was maintained and actively used in the therapy work with the client, despite the RAC claiming long term recovery. Identifying with the client appeared to activate shame and increase a fear of relapse for the RAC. These processes appeared to affect a potential dependency on the client work. These factors were reflected to be influenced by AA philosophies, which also affected a bias towards certain therapy interventions. Potential over-identification appeared evident in protective empathic enmeshment and hostile countertransference reactions. This included a possible and concerning coercive interpretation of affording tough-love to clients, potentially causing abuse to the alcoholic client.
Positive reflexive practice, self-awareness and compassionate practice were also evident. Feeling deep empathy in the shared experience was suggestive of empathic enmeshment and possible symbiotic healing processes taking place. Other benefits and issues of the shared experience are explored and discussed further. Recommendations are suggested to increase safe therapy practice for counsellors working with alcoholic clients and future research direction has been proposed.

Keywordsgrounded theory; recovering alcoholic counsellors; countertransference; shared experience with the client
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.1600
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10552/1600
Publication dates
Print06 Jun 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited06 Jun 2012
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